Friday, September 19, 2008

Punishment Capital

Tim Harford runs a 'Dear Economist' column in the Financial Times whereby readers write in their problems and Tim helps them out. This week's column involves the use of incentives for discipline children. And here is part of the answer:
The challenge, then, is to make sure that you have punishments available to you that you are willing to carry out. You may be able to rise to that challenge by building up what Joshua Gans calls “punishment capital” – not to be confused with capital punishment. Professor Gans, author of a new book called Parentonomics, points out that if you are the source of a steady stream of money or sweets, that gives you a negotiating position. Threatening to remove the carrot (or rather, the flow of chocolate coins) is more credible than threatening to wield the stick. What one parent sees as junk food, Professor Gans sees as an “incentive opportunity”.